February 22, 2018

Snapchat loses $1.3 billion in market value after Kylie Jenner tweets that she doesn't open up the app anymore.

Bloomberg reports.

Here's all it took: "sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad."

We think of these social media companies as so successful, but they could collapse in an instant, if people just stopped going there.

Related: I've stopped using Facebook.

Do Hollywood stars think life works like a movie?

TMZ reports:
Chevy [Chase] claims he was traveling over NY's Tappan Zee Bridge on February 9 when a black pickup cut him off. He told cops he though[t] the truck hit his car, so he flashed his high beams and followed it until the driver pulled over.

According to police docs ... Chevy realized there was no damage to either vehicle, but approached the driver to "speak to him about his reckless driving." He claims there were 3 other people in the truck, and one of 'em flipped him off....

Chevy says he fired back, "If I were a lot younger I'd bust your nose" ... then one of 'em got out and kicked him in the shoulder so hard he went to the ground.
The kicker told police that Chase actually did try to punch him, and the kick was in self-defense.

What kind of person, cut off by a truck in NYC, follows the truck and actually gets it to stop and walks up to it? Chase is a 74-year-old man, and he either didn't know who was in the truck or knew there were 3 people in it. He followed them, which is threatening, and, further threatening them, forced them to stop and approached them and (apparently) yelled at them. Did he think he'd be recognized as a celebrity and celebrated?

Perhaps he's desperate to get in the news and willing to die for it. Here he was last month going on "Good Morning Britain" to reminisce about the time — back in 1989 — when, pursuant to a "Saturday Night Live" script, he dumped popcorn on Donald Trump's head:

Oh, no, wait, Chase claims that was spontaneous ad lib slapstick: "I saw that hair and thought, 'I've got to spill some popcorn on him.'... He's just a big construction worker to me.... Unfortunately he's now running the country – a construction worker!" Well, Mr. Chase, the billionaire was able to inspire construction workers and other blue collar people to feel he cared about them. And here you are sneering at the people. And scolding and threatening truck drivers who you only imagine have damaged your fancy car.

How tone-deaf and un-self-aware can you get?

The infinitely subtle manipulations of Donald Trump.

The NYT would love to hear your most intimate sex stories. Please describe in graphic detail.

Does this seem creepy?
We’ve seen it play out on a public stage, from the Aziz Ansari incident to The New Yorker’s “Cat Person” story. So-called “gray-zone sex” has prompted impassioned conversations about — and personal reflection on — what constitutes consent and how we signal our desire or apprehension in the moment.... We want to hear how you handle consent for sexual intimacy in relationships and encounters. Do you have a particular experience you find yourself thinking back to? What was said, texted or hinted at, through words or physical cues, that moved the encounter forward — or stopped it? How did it make you feel at the time, and how do you think about it now?...

• We are seeking accounts from college undergraduates worldwide in 500 words or less.

• Visuals that illustrate your story (text message conversations, social media screenshots or similar images) are welcome....
I note that the solicitation is written in a gender-neutral way. Other than the reference to the Ansari incident and the Kristen Roupenian short story, there is no indication that they are only seeking stories from women who've had encounters with men. I'd like the Times to reveal in the end what proportion of the submissions (double meaning intended) are from women encountering men. 99%? Would a man who grudgingly provided sex to a woman and regretted it — or extracted himself after inspiring expectations — write up the graphic details for the New York Times? With screenshots!

Isn't it a question of who feels righteous about invading another person's privacy?

Did NYU serve a racist dinner to celebrate Black History Month?

The NYT describes the controversy:
On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water.

Nia Harris, a sophomore in N.Y.U.’s College of Arts & Science, sought an explanation from Weinstein Passport Dining Hall’s head cook. The cook dismissed her objections, Ms. Harris said in an email to university officials, telling her that the Kool-Aid was actually fruit punch (it was not, she said) and that the dining hall served fruit-flavored water “all the time” (it does, she said, but not watermelon).

The head cook also told Ms. Harris that the employees who planned the menu were black.

Ms. Harris, 19, posted a screen shot of her email on Facebook, along with a post that began, “This is what it’s like to be a black student at New York University.” It spread quickly....
The university president blamed Aramark, the company that provides the university's food service. Aramark blamed 2 of its workers. Supposedly, they deviated from the company's "longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion." So those 2 guys got fired, which can't be what Nia Harris wanted, can it?
In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Ms. Harris said she chose to believe that the Aramark employees had acted out of ignorance of their menu’s implications, not out of malice. But she added that, while she was glad they had been fired, it should not have been her responsibility to point out the problem — one that she said went far beyond a single incident.
To fire the 2 low-level workers is to say this is not a systemic problem but an inconsequential deviation from the norm by 2 inconsequential people. They're out and now we can return to our proud tradition of diversity and inclusion. [AND: The article is cagy about revealing the facts, but if I'm reading this correctly, the 2 men who lost their job are black.]

ADDED: This post caused me to make a new tag, "watermelon," and to apply to posts in the archive. In this process of retroactive tagging, I found 2 fascinating things.

First, the time Dan Rather said, about our first black President, Barack Obama, "if a state trooper is flagging down the traffic on a highway, Obama couldn't sell watermelons."

Second, the story of how Sayyid Qutb — who inspired al Qaeda — grew to hate Americans. So I dug up the text of "The America I Have Seen: In the Scale of Human Values" Sayyid Qutb ash-Shaheed (1951). The relevant excerpt:
As for their food, that too is very strange. You will attract attention, and cause disbelief, if you request another cube of sugar for the cup of coffee or tea that you drink in America. Sugar is reserved for pickles and salads, while salt, my good sir, is saved for apples and watermelons.

On your plate you will find combined a piece of salted meat, some boiled corn, some boiled peas, and some sweet jam. And on top of all this is what Americans call gravy, which is composed sometimes of fat, vinegar, flour, broth, apples, salt and pepper, and sugar, and water.

We were at the table in one of the cafeterias of the University, when I saw some Americans putting salt on their watermelon. And I was prepared to see these strange fads and also to play jokes on them from time to time. And I said, faking innocence, "I see you sprinkling salt on the watermelon." One of them said," Yes! Don't you do the same in Egypt?" I said, "No! We sprinkle pepper!" A surprised and curious giri said," How would that taste?" I said, "You can try for yourself!" She tasted it and said approvingly," It's tasty!" and so did all the others.

On another day in which watermelon was served, and most of the same people were at the table, I said "Some of us in Egypt use sugar at times instead of pepper." One of them tried it and said, "How tasty!" and so did all the others.
How nice we were to him!

What effect does this kind of news coverage have on those who are thinking of becoming the next school shooter?

pathetically weak

I made that screenshot from the front page of The Guardian because that's where I happened to click, but similar shots could be made from many prestigious news sites.

First light at Althouse.


MeTwo: These Gucci models are not carrying their own severed head.

They still have their heads on straight, but are merely carrying a second head, perhaps to replace the original head — why? (we see the operating tables) — or, no, I could be wrong. They could already have had their head replaced and the head they're carrying is the original head.

Here's video of the show. The MeTwo* models appear around 0:50:

My screenshots:

When something is presented in visual form, I prefer to look and come up with my own opinion. Whatever answers exist should be there in the thing that was intended to exist in the world as a visual object. This is like being a constitutional textualist. But maybe you think the intent of those who made the thing matters, in which case, the Washington Post reports on an effort at extracting the intent** of the framers from Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele.

Michele cites an essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway, which, we're told, is "a critique of identity politics and the idea that people must fit within predefined cultural boundaries."
“Limiting fashion to something that only produces business is too easy,” Michele said of the theme, according to Reuters.

So why severed heads? According to Michele, they were about accepting one’s self and “looking after your head and thoughts.”
Who knows what role Michele played in producing the theater of this fashion show? Does he even know the origin of this duplicate-head idea? As he speaks to reporters now, he is part of a larger performance, advertising his business and caring or pretending to care about art and politics and philosophy. In that role, whatever it really is, he steers us to an essay and offers a gentle, sweet interpretation that could be accepted at face value — yes, I should visualize my own head as a lovable baby to be cradled and protected  — or felt as a nudge to see that he lying — the models are carrying heads that are not attached to their bodies and look at those operating tables... what do you think will happen there or has it already happened? Get out!

Here's the Wikipedia article on "A Cyborg Manifesto." Excerpt:
Haraway calls for a revision of the concept of gender, moving away from Western patriarchal essentialism and toward "the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender," stating that "Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth."

Haraway also calls for a reconstruction of identity, no longer dictated by naturalism and taxonomy but instead by affinity, wherein individuals can construct their own groups by choice. In this way, groups may construct a "post-modernist identity out of otherness, difference, and specificity" as a way to counter Western traditions of exclusive identification.

* My coinage.

** WaPo's headline is "Gucci models walk the runway — with replica severed heads of themselves," which presumes the head the model carries was originally attached to this model — who now has a replacement head — or to this model's identical twin. But it could represent what it obviously is, a replica head which was never severed from anything at all. We could see it as nothing but a 3-D selfie! It's not dripping blood, like the Trump mask Kathy Griffin grimly displayed.

February 21, 2018

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can say all your Wednesday things.

Who are the good trolls?

The results from yesterday's poll after 505 responses:

Discuss these results any way you like. You can still go back and respond to the poll. I deliberately avoided expressing an opinion in the post or the comments, but you can figure out something of my opinion from the way I composed the answers. I'm particularly interested in thinking about this subject in light of the hand-wringing over Russians trolling the 2016 election. I believe the fear of trolls is dangerous to a culture of freedom of speech, and I'd like to welcome people all over the world to participate in the political debate in America, just as I want Americans to be able to talk to people in other countries about what we think about their politics. We need to build up our vigor, not become more dependent on the government to filter out things that might confuse us.

Not feeling the Burns.

"Michael Screnock, Rebecca Dallet advance in SCOWIS primary."
Tim Burns, who took the unusual approach of running as a Democrat and taking partisan stands on issues, was eliminated.

Caption on a GIF at the NYT: "Some seafood specialties such as sea bream are served so fresh they are still twitching."

Another caption on a GIF: "San-nakji, raw octopus, so freshly killed that the pieces squirm on your plate. It has become a dare of sorts for uninitiated visitors."

And by GIF, I mean, you see the food moving on your computer screen.

Leg parts cannot be alive and conscious. The octopus's brain is somewhere else.* But that twitching fish is still alive, is it not? The head is intact, still attached to the body which is slivered up for the diner's delectation. I've never seen — or felt that I'm seeing — so much expression on the face of a fish.

The article is "An Olympic Challenge: Eat All the Korean Food That Visitors Won’t." Like you're not sophisticated and inclusive of other human cultures if you are squeamish.
Many restaurant owners here... [say] it has felt as if the Games were not even going on. Visitors don’t seem to be venturing outside the Olympic bubble, they said.

I was determined not to be that sort of visitor. So I’ve swanned into press boxes with pork broth practically dripping off my clothes. I’ve interviewed some of the world’s top athletes with raw garlic on my breath. I am beginning to sense some of my colleagues growing alarmed with my behavior. But I can’t stop.
Elsewhere in the NYT, we are beaten over the head for our shortcomings in empathy. And, to be fair, there is a call to empathy here: empathy for the Korean restauranteur.

* Suffering? To answer that question, you must consider 2 subquestions: 1. "Octopuses are super-smart … but are they conscious?" and 2. "Do you really stay conscious after being decapitated?"

"Madison high schools are erupting in chaos. Three high schools in one day, Monday, February 19, over the noon hour."

"Bad enough for the cop on duty to call for reinforcements. Police responded to melees at Madison West, Madison Memorial, and Madison East high schools. From what we can determine, the misbehaving students were not peacefully protesting for gun control, social justice, or better cafeteria food. They were just fighting."

Writes David Blaska, with a "barebones" report from the police chief, a note to the parents from the West High School principal, and a letter from an unnamed parent. Excerpt from the parent's letter:
My son said this was a very loud and aggressive happening involving a subset of the student population that he cannot help but notice and comment has also coincidentally been involved in all other altercations (including not just “verbal altercations” but also actual physical assaults and various melees including ones with torn-off hair strewn on the floor and a vast crowd of students teeming at the edges, filled with adrenaline, watching and getting thrills from the witnessing thereof).

… These altercations are seen as the NORM because students engaging in them are coddled and the peaceful majority of students are the real victims— living in constant awareness that for reasons unknown to them and that can and will never make sense to them — West High and the District are engaging in experimental, ill-advised, and dangerous tactics to essentially bend over backwards to not “offend” the OFFENDERS.

My son is also aware of and afraid, as are most students, that at any given moment, the PARENTS of the violent pupils can and HAVE enjoined the fray themselves, coming upon school grounds....
Read the whole thing.

Scott Adams imagines what the news would be like if it stopped "mind-reading" and reported only "facts."

See if you can read my mind about why I put "mind-reading" and "facts" in quotation marks.

Here's Adams's blog post. Example:

Factual Report: Donald Trump exploited doubts within the Republican base about President Obama’s birth certificate to gain a political advantage. This is a common political tactic. Candidate Trump used the same strategy against Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada but is an American citizen.

Mind Reading: We can read Trump’s inner racist mind and we know the real reason he was involved with birtherism is to send a silent dog whistle to the racists in the Republican party.
That "factual report" contained mind reading: Trump did what he did "to gain a political advantage." If you're going to strip away the mind-reading, you can't leave traces of mind-reading that skew the so-called "facts" away from the direction where the MSM's mind-reading tries to take us.

Other examples at the link are "Some illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals and some are not," "Charlottesville," "KKK Disavowal," "Judge Curiel," and "Shithole Countries."

Adams's point is that "the anti-Trump media created the 'monster' version of Trump based on mind-reading punditry" and, that "Factual reporting would not have created that impression in the public’s mind."

Notice that Adams is reading a mind even more inscrutable than Trump's — "the public's mind."

Is there such a thing? I don't believe in that monster (I assert, but you don't know if I'm lying).

Inside that mythical beast — "the public's mind" — there is a "monster" that Adams purports to see. And Adams even purports to read the public's mind as it would exist if only the news media had not presented the news as if it could read Trump's mind. Adams is the master mind-reader.

I'm sure Adams is already aware of all these insights, because I'm reading his mind.

Billy Graham talks to Woody Allen in 1969.

The obituary for Billy Graham is discussed in the previous post. Please use the comments section here only to discuss this wonderful conversation, which includes a debate over the rule against sexual intercourse before marriage, Woody's idea that he might convert Graham to agnosticism, and Woody and Billy's shared rejection of drugs and alcohol:

There's also a discussion of their "greatest sin." Woody makes an inconsequential joke, and Billy cops to "idolatry" (but the conversation moves on before he says exactly what god he's put before God).

I don't think the word "Jesus" (or "Christ") ever comes up. Graham is elegantly and discreetly inclusive.

Billy Graham has died.

The great evangelist walked the earth for 99 years.

Here's the USA Today report. Excerpt:
From the gangly 16-year-old baseball-loving teen who found Christ at a tent revival, Graham went on to become an international media darling.... Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light. He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called "crusades."....

Franklin has mocked both Islam and LGBT rights...
That's not the right tone for an obituary. "Mocked"? That's a hostile characterization, and I don't even want to look up the actual quotes on the theory that it's inaccurate. It's simply inappropriate for an obituary. [ADDED: I missed the "Franklin." Only the son is accused of mockery. That makes the offense I'm feeling much less bad.] Let me retreat to my go-to news source, the New York Times:
A central achievement was his encouraging evangelical Protestants to regain the social influence they had once wielded, reversing a retreat from public life that had begun when their efforts to challenge evolution theory were defeated in the Scopes trial in 1925.

But in his later years, Mr. Graham kept his distance from the evangelical political movement he had helped engender, refusing to endorse candidates and avoiding the volatile issues dear to religious conservatives.

“If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting,” he said in an interview at his home in North Carolina in 2005 while preparing for his last American crusade, in New York City. “I’m just promoting the Gospel.”....

He was not without critics.
That's an appropriate tone.

"North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics."

"North ­Korea would have strongly ­preferred the vice president not use the world stage to call attention to those absolute facts or to display our strong alliance with those committed to the ­maximum-pressure campaign. But as we’ve said from Day One about the trip: This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics."

Said Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Mike Pence, quoted in WaPo in "Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials during the Olympics before last-minute cancellation."

Speaking of nice photo ops at the Olympics, how about those cheerleaders? "EXCLUSIVE: Exposed – the sinister masked minders watching every step of the North Korean cheerleaders as they try to turn Winter Olympics into propaganda victory for Kim Jong-Un" (Daily Mail):
CNN called them 'weirdly mesmerizing' and Vox described them as 'social media stars.' The Wall Street Journal called them 'weapons of mass distraction.' In reality, however, their every move is guarded carefully by a group of guards who wear masks in an apparent attempt to keep their identities shielded....

[I]n 2006, 21 members of North Korean cheering squads who traveled to South Korea for sports events were sent to a prison camp for talking about what they saw in the South....

CPAC wants nothing but distance between itself and Dinesh D’Souza.

Via Mediaite:

February 20, 2018

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about anything you like.

"I have seen representations of Roman boxing gloves depicted on bronze statues, paintings and sculptures, but to have the privilege of finding two real leather examples is exceptionally special."

"The hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realise you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves" (BBC).